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FTC Ends Google WiFi Inquiry, No Penalties Announced

Satisfied with Google’s recent emphasis on improving user privacy practices, the FTC has ended its investigation into Google’s collection of personal data earlier this year via its Street View photography service. The commission is not penalizing Google for what happened.

In a letter to Google attorneys dated October 27, 2010, David Vladeck of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection chastised Google for being oblivious to what its Street View cars were capturing as they drove the world’s streets:

[Google] did not discover that it had been collecting payload data until it responded to a request for information from a data protection authority. This indicates that Google’s internal review processes – both prior to the initiation of the project to collect data about wireless access points and after its launch – were not adequate to discover that the software would be collecting payload data, which was not necessary to fulfill the project’s business purpose.

Google recently announced that it’s done collecting WiFi data via Street View and appointed a new director of privacy, along with other internal measures to improve the company’s awareness of privacy principles. Vladeck recognized these moves in his letter, and encouraged Google to communicate further with the FTC about privacy issues as new products and services are developed.

You can download the FTC letter (128k PDF) and find more discussion on Techmeme. There’s also a host of background information in our Google Street View archives.

(via Forbes)

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